There was intense buying and selling in the booths where vintage original art from comic books and comic strips was on display in thick, oversized portfolios that were worth far more than their weight in gold.
Take dealer Joe Mannarino, whose booth had amazing original pieces by the brilliant Windsor McCay, Jack Kirby and Neal Adams, who is my personal all-time favorite artist. "The marketplace has never gone down, but we’re seeing major interest right now. It’s a very robust market." One reason is there are several generations of fans now of collecting age (i.e., they have enough money to jump into a pricey hobby) and the huge Hollywood afterlife of comics properties has also attracted investors who are just looking for a place to double and triple their money in a a few years. Mannarino is right in the middle of it all with one of the most respected appraisal businesses in the scene. He’s also worked as an agent for iconic artists such as Frank Frazetta, Mort Drucker, Joe Simon, Carmine Infantino and Jim Steranko.
When I stopped by, Mannarino had just paid $115,000 for a full 22-page story drawn by Adams and inked by the brilliant Berni Wrightson. Yes, you read that number right. "And someone has already offered me a $140,000 for it," Mannarino said, clearly torn about whether to part company so quickly with such a rare find.
"It’s the only time Wrightson ever inked Adams, I believe," Mannarino said of the issue, "Green Lantern" No. 84, circa 1971. (The purchase did not include the cover, which is pictured above, but I love the work of Adams so much i thought I would share it with you.)
What’s the big downside to the whole original-art scene? I spoke to Adams last year at Comic-Con and he seethes every time he hears about a purchased piece of his old art. He said all of those pages were stolen (his word, not mine) from him during a nasty dispute with DC Comics about artist’s rights. It certainly doesn’t help when he hears his old labors are fetching six-digit figures and he’s getting zilch.
I got a nice e-mail the other day from Adams (which is quite the thrill for someone who grew up staring at his "The Brave & the Bold" covers for hours) and we made plans to say hello tonight at the DC Comics party. It should be a great night so I’m not sure whether I’ll even mention Mannarino’s big buy.
– Geoff Boucher
Neal Adams cover art from "Green Lantern" courtesy of DC Comics.
Photo: Joe Mannarino at Comic-Con. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times